Friday 7 November 2014

Caring for a Vintage Wardrobe

It's no secret that I am a big fan of second hand shopping, particularly when it comes to buying vintage. However, to put things bluntly, 'vintage' clothes are basically old clothes, and no matter how well made they are or when they date from, it's important to remember that these are clothes that have been pre-loved. They have had a life of wear before finding their way to a new owner, and this can lead to them being more fragile and worn than brand new pieces. I like to look after my vintage pieces in different ways to my brand new items, and here's how I like to do it.

In The Shop
When you're buying, make sure you know exactly what it is you are getting yourself into. Make a full examination of the item, and check for any damage - stains, ripped seams, holes e.t.c. 9 times out of 10 it will be something manageable, but make sure you know how you plan to fix any damage before buying. Otherwise, you can end up buying something that you will never fix. That's fine too (especially when it's swoon worthy), as you could always reuse the fabric, or even trace the item to get a sewing pattern.

First Things First
Okay, so you've bought that incredible vintage piece that caught your eye, and you know that it fits you. What next? Washing. Most vintage clothing come without any washing instructions, and even with those that do, it's important to be careful. Make an examination of the fabric - what kind is it? If it's cotton, linen, or a nylon or man made fabric (hello 80's!) then I'd say that it's pretty safe to put it into a washing machine at a low temperature. Just make sure that you don't mix it with any colours that will run, and you should be safe. If it's a delicate item (think lace), or a fabric that is prone to shrinking (wool), or a damaged item, I like to err on the safe side and wash it by hand. Fill a washing bowl with warm water (if it's wool, make it a little cooler), add your washing powder and get scrubbing away. Before putting your washed item to air dry, rinse off any suds with cold water.

It's worth mentioning that certain items may be worth dry cleaning. If it's a particularly large and bulky item (like a coat), or a very specific fabric, or especially if it's a very special designer piece, then it may be worth forking out extra to avoid the risk of damaging the fabric.

Before Wearing
Before you begin to wear your new piece of clothing, you need to do any repairs necessary, as wearing your item could increase the amount of damage. Here are a few tips I've picked up from a few years of vintage fixing:
  • Ripped lace is a common problem, but one which is relatively easy to fix. Use a needle and thread in the same colour to your lace, and stitch it back together. Your stitches will be nearly invisible, I promise.
  • If stains haven't come off through washing, then it's time to get creative. You could applique over the stain, or if it's near the bottom of the item, you could even shorten it a little. If all else fails, remember that a darker dye will be your saviour.
  • Fixing things neatly and tidily is something which is not always possible, especially when it comes to ripped seams. If you can't afford to take in any fabric off the sides, start to think about fixing your item in a visible way. Stitching doesn't have to be near invisible, it can also be highly decorative, so get some inspiration and get sewing.
  • Holes? Bondaweb is your new bff. Iron it onto the reverse of the hole to support the fabric and to prevent the hole from getting any bigger. Then you can think about darning the front to hide the hole away.
  • If in doubt, remember that there is no right way and no wrong way to fix clothes. Be creative. Mix and match different fabrics, techniques, and textures to get an end result that works for you.
  • If your item needs a total refit and you're not confident enough to do it yourself, then it's time to make friends with a tailor.
I'm not going to tell you to take care whilst wearing your vintage items. Neither am I going to tell you to keep your vintage clothes for best. I refuse to do it. Get out there and wear it, and when someone asks you where you got that one of a kind dress, it will be worth it.


  1. A really helpful post, thank you! :)